January 7th, 2014
07:23 PM ET
9 years ago

Republicans use Gates’ new book to hammer Clinton, Biden

Updated 10:02 a.m. ET, 1/8/2014

Washington (CNN) – Republicans quickly pounced Tuesday on some controversial details from former Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ new book in which he highlights an admission from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he found “dismaying” and fiercely lambasts Vice President Joe Biden.

Both are potential 2016 presidential contenders.

Gates, who led the Pentagon under two presidents from 2006 to 2011, also offered scathing critiques of President Barack Obama and Congress in the memoir, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” which was obtained by CNN and is set to hit bookshelves next week.

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Republicans find new ammunition against Clinton

Gates said Clinton told Obama that she opposed the 2007 troop surge in Iraq for political reasons, as she was running against Obama in the Iowa presidential caucuses at the time.

“The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political,” Gates wrote. “To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

In early 2007, Washington was split on whether to increase the number of troops in Iraq or to start bringing them home. Clinton was among Senate Democrats, including Biden and Obama, who opposed boosting troop levels.

“I am not in favor of sending more troops to continue doing what our young men and women have been told to do, with the government of Iraq pulling the rug out from under them when they actually go after some of the bad guys. I am not in favor of doing that unless it’s part of a larger plan,” she said in December 2006 on NBC’s “Today.”

“Everyone knows there is no military solution to the difficulties we face in Iraq,” she continued, saying there needed to be a broader plan that “includes resolving some of the political issues.”

According to CNN/ORC International polling in March 2007, 83% of Democrats opposed President George W. Bush’s plan to send about 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

For Republicans eager to get a head start on defining Clinton in anticipation of her possible 2016 presidential run, Gates’ book became quick fodder for negative attacks, even though Gates also complimented her in his memoir.

America Rising PAC, an independent Republican group, e-mailed reporters Tuesday afternoon, claiming her admission as quoted in Gates’ book “is sure to undermine her attempt to position herself as ‘serious’ on foreign policy issues ahead of a likely 2016 run.”

The Republican National Committee soon followed with its own e-mail containing a satirical question: “We’re hearing Hillary Clinton made a decision based on politics. Which one of her Super PACs will respond?”

“Hillary Clinton has a history of making decisions based on politics instead of principle,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a separate comment. “It will be interesting to see how she addresses this with voters who have a long memory of the Clinton ways.”

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for another anti-Clinton group, Stop Hillary PAC, argued the book excerpt proved Clinton is “disingenuous and deceitful.”

"She will do anything, including mislead the country, by putting her political ambitions ahead of the safety of Americans at home and abroad,” he said.

A source close to Gates said the former defense secretary is aware that the line about Clinton opposing the surge for political reasons could hurt her, but he was so stunned to hear her administration–and a less blunt admission from Obama–he felt obligated to print it.

The source said Gates actually has a lot of respect for Clinton, and in his book, he otherwise praised Clinton.

Gates wrote: “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.”

And at Gates’ farewell ceremony in 2011, he had high praise for Clinton, saying she’s become a cherished colleague and a good friend.

David Brock, founder of Correct The Record, a project that frequently defends Clinton, pointed out Gates’ admiration for Clinton in the book.

“Gates’s trust in her seems to be epitomized by the high praise he reserved for her,” Brock said.

DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee also weighed in.

"The President, the Vice President, Secretary Clinton all took office on a promise to end the war in Iraq and defeat al Qaeda so that we could end the war in Afghanistan. That’s what they’ve done," he said, adding "that’s what people will remember.”

Biden accused of ‘poisoning the well’

Gates was not as complimentary about the Vice President, however.

While Gates calls Biden “a man of integrity,” he wrote, “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Biden was tapped to be Obama’s running mate in 2008 largely because of his foreign policy experience. Biden was serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time and had been in the Senate for six terms.

One day after Gates book bonanza, a rare peek into Obama-Biden lunch

Gates also expressed contempt for the Vice President and blamed Biden for "poisoning the well" against the military leaders.

Gates named a specific example of what he considered Biden’s poor judgment in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. He said Biden preferred a “strategy of reducing our presence in Afghanistan to rely on counterterrorist strikes from afar.”

Gates wrote such “’Whac-A-Mole’ hits on Taliban leaders weren't a long-term strategy.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden defended Biden in response to the book.

“The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day,” she said.

Asked about Gates’ opinion of Biden, Sen. John McCain told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, host of The Situation Room, that he has the “greatest affection” for Biden … and he’s one of the finest men that I’ve known.”

“But he has been wrong on a lot of these issues, there’s very little doubt about that, going back to Desert Storm,” the Arizona Republican said.

McCain was pressed on whether it’s fair to say Biden has been wrong on every issue over the past four decades.

“I don’t want to recount them,” McCain said, laughing. “But he has been wrong on a number of occasions, and he was one of the factors in the whole removal of all of our troops from Iraq.”

CNN’s Paul Steinhauser, Dana Bash, Keating Holland and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Joe Biden • Robert Gates
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    Larry L

    @Fair is Fair

    Marie MD

    "The Afghan war is NOT our President's war. That war was started by the shrub #43 to look for and capture or kill bin laden. He couldn't eve get that right!"
    It was started by Al Queda in 9/11. Afghanistan was attacked because they provided safe haven to Al Queda and allowed terrorists to train there. The primary goal of the war was NOT to capture or kill OBL, but rather to eliminate AQ'a ability to continue their practices. On countless occasions, Obama referred to it as "the good war", and also increased troop levels there. Those are facts, Sweetheart. Don't let them get in your way.
    You're revising history again by leaving out the real facts. Bush pulled out of Afghanistan so he could go to Iraq and fight a war to impress his Daddy. Over 4,500 Service-Members died in that effort but Halliburton did well... He had already allowed Bin laden to get away and declared his "new" objective. While he wasted his time in one of the few countries that didn't play a role in 9/11, the Taliban regrouped and created a training ground for Al Queda and further oppressing the Afghani people. At that point we re-engaged in Afghanistan while wrapping up Bush's War. Those are the facts "Sweetheart". I was there.
    Larry, read the initial post. It was about Afghanistan, not Iraq.

    And from the mother of a soldier who did tours in both theaters, thank you for your service.

    January 8, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. Frank

    Gates could not ask for a better marketing pitch for his book. He needs to buy lunch for everyone at CNN someday.

    January 8, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Maimonida

    I did not read this book. But every criticism of Obama's people that I have heard from commentators is actually presenting Obama and his cabinet in positive light. Military should be checked by nonmilitary officials. Second guessing every step is a good thing in war and piece questions. I know it could irritate Gates but it is better than mindless Bush that does not check and second guess anything.

    January 8, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  4. Peach

    I don't know how anyone can take Joe Biden seriously. I mean there is something really wrong with this guy....... I always thought Obama kept him handcuffed to the radiator in the basement. Every word that comes out of Biden's mouth is ridiculous........Joe Biden = Mr. Magoo

    January 8, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. sonnie3

    As potus obama looked long and hard to find some one dumber then himself/ and Bingo Silly Joe filled the bill.
    nuf Said

    January 8, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |

    Put Biden and/or Mrs. Benghazi on the ticket PLEASE.

    January 8, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. Marcus (from...?)

    The Real Tom Paine
    -The Truth Hurts
    I see the spin patrol is out in force today. It will be interesting to see if this has legs.
    This, coming from someone who yesterday claimed he voted for the President twice?

    No way! He did it? He ACTUALLY did believe that everybody else in the world would fall for that one?

    January 8, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. Bob

    You guys seem shocked to hear that politics influenced the presidents decisions.
    Politics and self centered ness as well as self preservation dictate all of their decisions

    January 8, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. wendel

    apparently the people bashing VP Biden have not done their homework and just like to hear themselves make idiot remarks. Something the republican party does with more and more frequency. Gates took the job and now wants to bash the white house. Just selling more books. And what about his attack on congress ?? Why no mention of that. Trolls only on a witch hunt clean your own house. Gates is paranoid like McCaine

    January 8, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. Refuse2giveup

    Up until the time he DARED to criticize Our Dear Leader and others on The Left, Gates was respected by both parties. How quickly the worm turns.

    January 8, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. ConcernedCitizenVoter

    Three words for republican's complaints about Clinton's remarks:

    Pot, meet kettle

    January 8, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. Marcus (from...?)

    Bob Penn:
    Michelle Malkin... oh yeah the woman that tried to accuse Kerry to have shot himself to get the wounds that got him his 'badges'... until Chris Matthews cornered her (after eleven denials) and she dodged the responsability of her own words by saying that 'actually' soldiers were making that claim...
    Nice choice of author you have....

    January 8, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    @bob penn, Michelle Malkin? Sorry can't stop laughing. Malkin? She's a puppet of the Koch brothers and faux news.
    If I didn't know better I would think faux news uses her as a token. Then again . . . . I might be right.
    Thanks for the laughs. Rough day at work and your post will help me get through the rest of the afternoon. LOL!

    January 8, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. PeterD

    President Bush was The Most Decisive President on the Other Hand President Obama Turned Out to Be Most Weak and Divisive President of USA.

    January 8, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. Marcia

    Gates has all these criticisms yet says he did not say anything to Obama while he was there-how disloyal then to publish it in a book-what a coward

    January 8, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. dontbow

    You dont need a book to pounce on biden and obama the 2 biggest mor0ns in goverment today.

    January 8, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Fact is; the decision to invade Iraq in the first place was a blunder of monumental proportions. Can not figure out why the media has not done anything to point this out. Over 20 years ago, our military members in the rank of major, were being taught in every service school, that the first President Bush was wise NOT to destroy Baghdad or depose Saddam Hussein. Was obvious that doing so would create a power vacuum which would doom Iraq to a perpetual civil war, as Iraqi history made crystal clear. As treacherous as Saddam was...........he at least prevented his country from being a breeding ground for Al Qaeda operatives.

    January 8, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
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